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Professors Investigate the Consequences of Apple v. Samsung

November 09, 2012

The Apple v. Samsung case resulted in a $1 billion judgment in favor of Apple with the court finding that Samsung willfully infringed on Apple's iPhone and iPad patents and had also diluted Apple's trade dress. At a Nov. 9 panel discussion about the case with intellectual property law professors Gregory Lastowka, Jennifer Sheridan and Steven Rocci, Sheridan asked the audience comprised of the law school's current students and recent alumni to hold up their mobile phones.  The result was a room full of smartphones in the air and Sheridan's illustration of how the proliferation of smartphones and the rising number of technology-related intellectual property disputes like Apple v. Samsung could affect public consumers. 

Sheridan cautioned that high damage awards, litigation costs and attorneys fees in cases like Apple v. Samsung, are all part of an increasing number of worldwide patent and trademark disputes that could potentially give rise to higher product costs and even preclude consumer's use of certain products.

In the dilution of trade dress aspect of the case, the jury found that Samsung smartphones and tablets mimicked the overall look and feel of Apple's iPhone and iPad to such an extent that they prevented consumers from differentiating between the companies' products, Lastowka explained.  Lastowka presented the illustrations used by Apple in the case, pointing out that the uncanny similarity between Apple and Samsung's products gave little choice but for the jury to decide in Apple's favor.  However, Lastowka said, had the jury considered whether Apple's design actually affected the overall functionality of the products, Samsung might have stood a chance. 

Professor Rocci explained that the patent aspect of the case involved the utility and design functionality of the iPhone and iPad, particurly those well-known multitouch and tap-to-zoom features of iDevices.  Samsung stood little chance of succeeding given the precision with which Apple characterized its claims, leaving little option for the jury but to decide that Apple's patents had been violated, Rocci claimed.

The event was hosted by the Intellectual Property Society.